What’s Really Going On With School Food?

We surveyed our School Food Champions cohort — almost 1,000 pupils — to get the lowdown on school food.

We asked our School Food Champions, almost 1,000 of them, what they thought about their school food. The answers were varied, but there was one common theme, there is definitely room for improvement!

When we asked “What do you like about your school food?”, they said:

  • 123 said their school food tasted good
  • 110 students said there was a good variety of food
  • 40 students said it was healthy or there was a good healthy/unhealthy balance
  • 28 said it was well priced
  • And 20 students said there wasn’t anything they liked about their school food at all!

Whilst 123 students saying their school food is tasty may sound a lot, we don’t think it’s good enough. Less than 20% of our School Food Champions students enjoy eating their school food, and only 6% said their school food is healthy.

And when we asked “What frustrates you most about your school food?”, by far the most common response was that it’s unhealthy!

All the healthy food is pushed to the side and the junk food is the first thing you get to.

A School Food Champion

A very common theme was that students felt when there are healthy options, they are priced out of them. Frequently students mentioned a healthy snack, such as a fruit pot, being more expensive than an entire grab-n-go meal deal, which may provide no portion of fruit or veg.

Teachers we spoke to also said that students are buying meal deals from supermarkets before they come to school because it is cheaper. These meal deals do not have to follow School Food Standards so these students may be eating junk food instead of a nutritious hot meal.

The food wasn’t the only thing that made a difference at lunch time either, so did the eating environment. We know that the environment students eat in is almost as important as the food they are eating in, you can read more about this in our Spill the Beans report.

It is expensive and it is mostly junk food or high in sugar. It is cheaper to buy a waffle than a fruit pot.

A School Food Champion, Cambridgeshire

It is clear that there is work to be done both on the food that is served at schools and also the environment it is served in.

This is where School Food Champions comes in! Last year we saw our School Food Champions increase access to free drinking water, install salad bars, increase seating options, set up breakfast clubs, and increase the cultural variety of items on the menu. We have twice as many schools across the country taking part this year so we can’t wait to see the changes they put into action this term!

If you would like to hear more about the School Food Champions programme, please click here!

I hope that as a member of Bite Back 2030 we can make the school canteen environment and food better for everyone.

A School Food Champion, Wigan